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Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis in Mexico Is a Priority This Session, Mexican Senate Says
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Published on August 27, 2022

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The ruling political party in Mexico says that adult-use cannabis legalization is once again a priority in this fall’s Senate session. Of course, that’s been its story for years. 

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party reported in an August 24 press statement that Rafael Espino de la Peña, head of the Senate justice commission, affirmed the drug’s economic importance at a recent public forum entitled “Cannabis in Mexico.” The forum took place on August 24 and 25, and was sponsored by a group of cannabis industry advocates.

“The use of cannabis for therapeutic, industrial, or recreational purposes is a matter of health and public security, of economic development, and of the guarantee of the freedom to decide in an informed manner about one’s consumption,” the senator reportedly said.

Espino de la Peña underlined the fact that recreational legalization could be a boon to Mexico’s economy, which has been threatened with recession as a result of the United States’ own murky economic standing. He reportedly stated that weed could bring as much as 18 million pesos per year (just shy of one million USD — a conservative estimate given that Mexico’s population stands around 130 million) through production and sale.

The senator acknowledged that the country’s century-plus-old prohibitionist approach to the drug has not achieved the desired results of preventing its use.

Espino de la Peña stated that making regulation more flexible in regards to the cannabis market would have the effects of “extending employment, bettering health and security, helping economic development.”

Of course, this is not the first time the Mexican government has made such assertions. In fact, the legislature has been affirming that adult-use cannabis legalization is a top priority since 2018, when the Supreme Court declared the country’s prohibition unconstitutional (for the first time.) Proposals for weedy regulation have made it to floor votes, and were even approved by the Senate in November 2020 and the lower house in spring 2021. But the two houses have never found a compromise between their different versions, forever putting the process back at square one in subsequent legislative sessions.

The delay in implementing regulations has been so extreme that in June of 2021, the high court took the additional step of ordering the federal health agency to start issuing individual permits for marijuana consumption and cultivation. The agency has yet to issue a single permit, though many Mexicans have sent in applications.

The day after 4/20 this year, Mexican Senate leader Olga Sánchez Cordero, who was a known champion of drug decriminalization before joining the president’s Morena party, issued a statement saying that Mexico was “straggling” when it came to adult-use cannabis legalization.

Some cannabis advocates believe that the delay can be attributed to President AMLO’s personal reluctance to widen access to the drug. The president, who went public with his evangelical faith well after being elected, has remarked on different occasions that he would even reinstate prohibition should it be determined that cannabis “harms” Mexico after legalization.

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Caitlin Donohue
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Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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